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The Limits of Big Data For Social Engineering 95

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-do-the-number-say? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In his new book, Social Physics, MIT data scientist Alex 'Sandy' Pentland argues that by analyzing data from smartphones, social media, and credit-card systems, we'll soon be able to have a mathematical understanding of 'the basic mechanisms of social interactions.' Social scientists will be able to understand and predict the interactions of people the way physicists understand and predict the interactions of objects. That will, in turn, enable governments and businesses to create incentive systems to 'tune' people's behavior, making society more productive and creative. In a review of Pentland's book in Technology Review, Nicholas Carr argues that such data-based social engineering 'will tend to perpetuate existing social structures and dynamics' and 'encourage us to optimize the status quo rather than challenge it.' Carr writes, 'Defining social relations as a pattern of stimulus and response makes the math easier, but it ignores the deep, structural sources of social ills. Pentland may be right that our behavior is determined largely by social norms and the influences of our peers, but what he fails to see is that those norms and influences are themselves shaped by history, politics, and economics, not to mention power and prejudice.'"

Comment: Re:Closed source won here (Score 1) 582

by Eric Smith (#46762057) Attached to: How Does Heartbleed Alter the 'Open Source Is Safer' Discussion?

Would you argue that if a Microsoft (or other vendor) SSL implementation was used by most of the world's web servers, this would have been less likely to happen? As far as I know, there's no reason to think that any other implementation, open or closed, would be any more immune to such problems. There is little or no evidence that closed source software is generally more reliable, or that substantial effort is made to audit it.

If you're arguing that it's bad that such a high percentage of the world's web servers use the same software, I might agree, but that is completely orthogonal to whether that software is open or closed.

Comment: Re:Honestly, the "OSS is safe" discussion is over. (Score 1) 582

by Eric Smith (#46762019) Attached to: How Does Heartbleed Alter the 'Open Source Is Safer' Discussion?
That OpenSSL is open source is irrelevant. This bug could just as easily have happened in closed source software. Using closed source software does not give any higher confidence in the quality of the code; many studies (e.g., 2012 Coverity Scan Open Source Report) show generally comparable code quality, with some open source projects scoring substantially better than average.

Comment: safe languages (Score 1) 582

by Eric Smith (#46761973) Attached to: How Does Heartbleed Alter the 'Open Source Is Safer' Discussion?

Heartbleed is a perfect example of why software should be written in "safe" languages, which can protect against buffer overruns, rather than unsafe languages like C and C++.

Of course, the problem is that if you try to distribute open source software written in a safe language, everyone bitches and whines about how they don't have a compiler for that language, and how run time checking slows the software down by 10%. Personally I'd rather have more reliable software that ran 10% slower, than less reliable software that ran faster. It's also crazy to turn off the run-time checks "after the software is debugged", as if the debugging process ever succeeded in finding all the bugs. As C.A.R. Hoare famously observed in 1973, "What would we think of a sailing enthusiast who wears his lifejacket when training on dry land, but takes it off as soon as he goes to sea?"

The "with enough eyes" argument, and "if programmers were just more careful" arguments don't justify continued widespread use of unsafe languages. Granted, safe languages don't eliminate all bugs, but they eliminate or negate the exploit value of huge classes of bugs that are not just theoretical, but are being exploited all the time.

I keep hoping that after enough vulnerabilities based on buffer overruns, bad pointer arithmetic, etc. are reported, and cost people real money, that things will change, but if Heartbleed doesn't make a good enough case for that, I despair of it ever happening.


Final Fantasy XIV Failed Due To Overly Detailed Flowerpots 195

Posted by timothy
from the discretion-is-the-better-part-of-computation dept.
_xeno_ (155264) writes "You might not remember Final Fantasy XIV, the Square Enix MMORPG that flopped so badly that Square Enix fired the original developers. But Square Enix certainly does, and at a recent GDC panel, producer Naoki Yoshida explained his views on what caused its failure. One reason? The focus on graphical quality over game play, leading to flower pots that required the same rendering power as player characters, but without the same focus on making the game fun to play. Along with severe server instability and a world made up of maze-like maps, he also cited the game being stuck in past, trying to stick with a formula that worked with Square Enix's first MMO, Final Fantasy XI, without looking at newer MMOs to see what had worked there."

A Call For Rollbacks To Previous Versions of Software 199

Posted by timothy
from the forced-upgrades-are-a-pox-on-the-world dept.
colinneagle writes "In a blog post, Andy Patrizio laments the trend — made more common in the mobile world — of companies pushing software updates ahead without the ability to roll back to previous versions in the event that the user simply doesn't like it. iOS 7.1, for example, has reportedly been killing some users' battery power, and users of the iTunes library app TuneUp will remember how the much-maligned version 3.0 effectively killed the company behind it (new owners have since taken over TuneUp and plans to bring back the older version).

The ability to undo a problematic install should be mandatory, but in too many instances it is not. That's because software developers are always operating under the assumption that the latest version is the greatest version, when it may not be. This is especially true in the smartphone and tablet world. There is no rollback to be had for anything in the iOS and Android worlds. Until the day comes when software developers start releasing perfectly functioning, error-free code, we need the ability to go backwards with all software."

Algorithm Reveals Objects Hidden Behind Other Things In Camera Phone Images 85

Posted by samzenpus
from the pay-no-attention-to-the-objects-behind-the-curtain dept.
KentuckyFC writes "Imaging is undergoing a quiet revolution at the moment thanks to various new techniques for extracting data from images. Now physicists have worked out how to create an image of an object hidden behind a translucent material using little more than an ordinary smartphone and some clever data processing. The team placed objects behind materials that scatter light such as onion skin, frosted glass and chicken breast tissue. They photographed them using a Nokia Lumina 1020 smartphone, with a 41 megapixel sensor. To the naked eye, the resulting images look like random speckle. But by treating the data from each pixel separately and looking for correlations between pixels, the team was able to produce images of the hidden objects. They even photographed light scattered off a white wall and recovered an image of the reflected scene--a technique that effectively looks round corners. The new technique has applications in areas such as surveillance and medical imaging."

Comment: 1% *success* rate is high (Score 1) 147

by Eric Smith (#46466971) Attached to: How St. Louis Is Bootstrapping Hundreds of Programmers
Given the low entry barrier as compared to traditional higher education systems, the surprise isn't the failure rate, but the success rate. Given the low cost per student of providing the course, even at a 1% success rate I expect that the cost per successful student is much better than the traditional systems, though I don't actually have numbers to back that up.
Data Storage

How Do You Backup 20TB of Data? 983

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the upload-it-to-ftp-and-... dept.
Sean0michael writes "Recently I had a friend lose their entire electronic collection of music and movies by erasing a RAID array on their home server. He had 20TB of data on his rack at home that had survived a dozen hard drive failures over the years. But he didn't have a good way to backup that much data, so he never took one. Now he wishes he had.

Asking around among our tech-savvy friends though, no one has a good answer to the question, 'how would you backup 20TB of data?'. It's not like you could just plug in an external drive, and using any cloud service would be terribly expensive. Blu-Ray discs can hold a lot of data, but that's a lot of time (and money) spent burning discs that you likely will never need. Tape drives are another possibility, but are they right for this kind of problem? I don' t know. There might be something else out there, but I still have no feasible solution.

So I ask fellow slashdotters: for a home user, how do you backup 20TB of Data?"
Even Amazon Glacier is pretty pricey for that much data.

Coca-Cola Reserves a Massive Range of MAC Addresses 371

Posted by timothy
from the maytag-and-starbucks-champing-at-bit dept.
An anonymous reader writes "GNU MacChanger's developer has found by chance that The Coca-Cola company got a range of MAC addresses allocated at the OUI, the IEEE Registration Authority in charge of managing the MAC addresses spectrum. What would Coca-Cola want around 16 million MAC addresses reserved? What are they planning to use them for? Could this part of a strategy around the Internet-of-things concept?"

Comment: They were two millenia late to the party. (Score 1) 170

by Eric Smith (#45732567) Attached to: Polynesians May Have Invented Binary Math
There are several algorithms using the binary number system, including left-to-right binary exponentiation, in Pingala's Chanda-sutra, before 200 BCE. Knuth's _The Art of Computer Programming, Volume 2: Seminumerical Algorithms_ cites B. Datta and A.N. Singh's 1935 _History of Hindu Mathematics 1_. Also al-Kashi described the right-to-left binary exponentiation algorithm in 1427 CE.
It's funny.  Laugh.

The Ultimate Anti-Action Online Game: Waiting In Line 3D 94

Posted by timothy
from the desert-bus-for-bipeds dept.
Freshly Exhumed writes "Looking a lot like the venerable Wolfenstein 3D or similar Id action games of the DOS days, the new online game Waiting in Line 3D was released Monday by developer Rajeev Basu, and was played 50,000 times in its first 24 hours of activity... er... inactivity. Is the complete lack of any action a brilliant satire of computer gaming? Is it software-based performance art? Is it silly? Judge for yourself, if you can meet the challenge!" Now's a good time to confess if you spent a major portion of your post-Thanksgiving dinner recovery time camped out in line for some of those Black Friday come-ons.

The first version always gets thrown away.